Don’t Feed the Alligators

A Personal Finance Blog from a Small-Scale Landlord’s Perspective

Archive for the 'Endorsement' Category

Shaw's Cards

photo figure credit: ScrapperMom

This past Sunday morning ScrapperMom was perusing the grocery store circular when this offer caught her eye (my emphasis added):

Choose your tax refund reward. Customers can purchase gift cards with their Shaw’s Rewards Card (for carded markets) at their local store’s Customer Service center.  No tax form or refund check is necessary.  Customers may purchase a grocery store gift card at $250 or $300.  Each gift card will be loaded with an additional $20 for a $250 purchase or $30 for a $300 purchase.  There is no limit for the amount of cards a customer can purchase. The additional bonus amount cannot be used for the purchase of alcohol, fuel, tobacco, lottery tickets, dairy products, prescription drugs or additional gift cards.  Offer is available March 13, 2009 through April 15, 2009.

Shaw’s is one of our local grocery stores (same company as Star Market), and it ran a similar 10% bonus during last year’s Economic Stimulus check mailings.  Apparently the response from customers and reward for Shaw’s was so great that they’ve decided to run this offer during tax season this year as well.  The limit before was whatever the size of your stimulus check was, and we took full advantage.  But I’m really psyched that there’s no limit on this offer.

Clearly this is a great deal no matter how you slice it.  The offer is for a store that we visit at least once per week, where we spend at least $250 per month, and that sells necessities, namely food.  The only real question is how much advantage we can take.  There are a few factors that limit how many of these cards we should buy:

  • How much cash we have available.
  • What the cost is to tie up this cash for whatever time it will take to use up all of the cards that we buy.
  • Whether this is really a no limit offer.

Because we don’t live paycheck to paycheck, we actually have somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 available on hand in cash that we could use for this “investment” that is not technically part of our emergency fund.  It turns out that we also gave the government too big of an interest free loan last year, so we’re going to be getting a healthy refund which we can also roll into purchasing discount gift cards.

I ran some quick math to see how soon I would have to spend the gift card before we would have just been better off sticking the money in a CD.  I figured out that if I could earn 3.5%, tax free,  on a $300 investment today, it would take 34 months to earn 10% on the initial investment.  That means that as long as I can spend the gift card within the next 3 years (because with taxes it will take longer than 34 months to accrue 10%) I will be getting a better return by buying the gift card.

I asked myself if there were any down sides to this offer as well.  One that pops to mind is that we’ll be tying up lots of cash that we may need for other things.  The nice thing about these gift cards, however, is that we can easily trade them for cash, and if things ever get that bad, we’ll still have to eat, so having grocery cards is not such a bad thing.  Another thing we’ll need to be careful about is where and how we store the cards.  Having the equivalent of thousands of dollars in cash laying around has risks: fire, theft, loss, etc.  We’ll have to figure out a way to deal with that.  Lastly, what if the store goes out of business?  This is certainly something about which to be concerned, but this is a chain that has been around as long as I can remember, stores don’t usually just all of a sudden stop honoring gift cards, and as above we should be able to liquidate them quickly if it comes to that.

We still haven’t decided exactly how many of these cards we’ll buy in total.  We spent about $5,400 on groceries in 2008, so we can buy a lot of these cards and still come out ahead.  Yesterday ScrapperMom went to the Customer Service desk to buy 6 of them and was told that you can only buy 5 per customer per day.  So there is, apparently, a limit, but I still don’t think it should affect how many we want to buy (though if it did I would argue that the ad does say “no limit”).

What do you think?  Should we stock up on $10,000 worth of these cards (or the closest multiple of $300) and get an instant $1,000 back?  Is this a deal that interests you?  How many will you buy or would you buy if you could?  Are there downsides or risks that we’ve yet to consider? Leave a comment below!

If you liked this article, you may be interested in seeing some related articles:


Pregnant Silhouette

Creative Commons License photo figure credit: mahalie

ScrapperMom and I are happy to announce that we are expecting our second child in January.  We feel thrilled, scared, excited, and many other emotions all at once.  I wanted to bring this up in an official post on the subject since I plan to explore how this will affect our finances in some future posts.  The topic will likely also slip into a number of other posts, so I wanted to be very clear about this.  It’s actually been difficult not mentioning it all over the last few months. S/he will be just about two years behind big sister, and we’re not going to find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl, just like last time.

Now that we got that out of the way, I wanted to say a few words about the State of the Blog.

I started Don’t Feed the Alligators just over 6 months ago.  At the end of the first week, I had 17 subscribers and now am up to 74.  While I wish I had more, I am exceedingly thrilled that there are that many people out there interested in what I have to say on a semi-weekly basis.  I know my mother-in-law enjoys reading because as she puts it, “I learn more about the two of you by reading what (MITBeta) writes than any other way…”

Here are some more numbers:

  • ScrapperMom and I have combined to write a total of 71 articles
  • We have 10 articles pending in some stage of draft
  • We’ve created 34 different sorting categories
  • There are nearly 500 keywords
  • There have been 1,137 SPAM comments (blocked by Akismet)

In the last 30 days, the top referring domains have been (in order):

Thanks to all of my blogging peers for the traffic.  Be sure to check out those sites for some great articles.

The real question in all of this, however, is, “So what?”  The “So What” is you, the reader.  While there would certainly be some therapeutic value in writing what we do without an audience, there’s no way we would have kept it up for so long.  I recognize that I am here to provide you with information, entertainment, a new point of view, or whatever, and it is with this in mind that I once again ask the question:

How are we doing?

Are the posts too long or too short?  Are the articles too in-depth or not in-depth enough?  Am I glossing over too many of the basics or is the information here no different than what can be had elsewhere?  How’s the frequency of posting?  Are there specific topics you’d like to discuss or see addressed?

It’s easy to tell when a post is good, since it usually generates a lot of Comments, but most posts still go uncommented.  I like to have the feedback, good or bad, as well as any additions or counterpoints.  So let me know what kind of a job we’re doing here at Don’t Feed the Alligators, and if you really enjoy the content, don’t hesitate to share it with your friends, family, and coworkers.

This past weekend I attended a party given by friends of ours who are also subscribers and met a young woman who upon being introduced asked, “You’re the Alligators guy, right?”  “Yes,” I replied.  “I love reading your stuff,” she said (my emphasis added ;P).  I really didn’t know what to say at the time — I’ve never been good at receiving compliments.  But I know what to say now:

Thank you!

Without you and readers like you, this blog would long ago have been relegated to the cache archive at Google.

Frisbee

A reader recently asked me for more information about opening an ING Direct account.  I have mentioned ING in the past, and recommend this bank for anyone who:

  • Is looking to establish a savings account
  • Wants to earn a better interest rate on existing savings
  • Likes free money
  • Wants to allocate separate pools of money to separate savings goals

What’s so great about ING?  Well, there’s nothing particularly spectacular about any one aspect of ING, but it has a lot of really great things going for it, including:

  • A rate of return far higher than the national average for savings accounts, currently 3% — although it’s not typically as high as some other online banks
  • No fees
  • The ability to create “sub-accounts”, which is useful for categorizing savings goals
  • Anecdotally popular customer service*
  • Ease of use; link your current checking account to your ING account to move money back and forth as necessary
  • FDIC Insured
  • Signup bonuses

So, if you have any of the desires listed at the top of the article, and enjoy any of the features listed above, then an ING account may be for you.  If you would like to sign up, then you may want to act quickly.  By using one of the referral links below, you will get a $25 bonus if you make an initial deposit of at least $250.  That’s an instant 10% return on your money.  At the same time, I will get a $10 bonus as well for the referral.

These links work just once, so if you use one, let me know so I can remove it.  If a link doesn’t work, let me know and I will remove it.  If there are no more links, let me know and I will add more.  Contact me if you have questions or concerns.  Happy saving!

ING Referral Link 1

ING Referral Link 2

ING Referral Link 3

ING Referral Link 4

ING Referral Link 5


* The personal finance blogosphere seems to agree on this point.

I’m pleased to present the first ever giveaway here at Don’t Feed the Alligators. The folks at Baby Signs, Inc. have been gracious enough to provide a Potty Training Made Easy with the Baby Signs Program kit. Now I know that this won’t interest some of you, but you can always give this to friends with a toddler!

ScrapperMom has written before about our great results with the use of sign language over the last 9 months with our 19 month old daughter. Linda left a comment on that post that introduced us to the product featured below. She pointed out that you can save LOTS of money on diapers by training your toddler as soon as possible. You can find out how to enter to win at the bottom of this post.

Potty Training Kit

Everything you and your baby need to make potty training fun and easy! Kit includes 5 exciting products:

  • A Parent’s Guide to Potty Training Made Easy with the Baby Signs® Program This straightforward parent guide from trusted child development experts will help you confidently lead your baby to potty success. Includes illustrated Signing Glossary.
  • All Aboard the Potty Train DVD With its catchy tunes, delightful animation and real kids, this exciting DVD will teach your baby five potty-time signs and reinforce each step of the potty routine.
  • All Aboard the Potty Train Lift-the-Flap Book Your baby will love discovering the potty-time signs hidden under each flap in this fun and interactive board book featuring the DiaperDoodles™.
  • Job Well Done! Stickers These colorful reward stickers feature fun images and positive messages such as “Good Job!”, “I’m on the Potty Train!” and “I Rode the Potty Train!”
  • All Aboard the Potty Train Conductor’s Whistle Whether to signal it’s time to go potty or to “sound the trumpet of success,” this fun-to-blow whistle will put a smile on your baby’s face when it’s potty time.
Potty Training Kit

ScrapperMom, Daughter #1, and I have had a chance to review the DVD and while it’s a bit repetitive for my tastes, Daughter #1 gives it two little thumbs up. In fact, she is happy to sit on her potty, and sign along with the babies in the video! It looks like she’ll enjoy the lift the flap book, and it’s not clear yet whether she’ll be able to figure out how to blow the whistle. The parents’ guide book is really interesting and points out that like so many other things in our daily lives, it’s big business (namely the disposable diaper companies) that has delayed the onset of potty training in the United States. In fact, there is a vested interest in keeping kids in diapers as long as possible.

At a $40 value, this set should keep toddlers entertained while giving Mom and Dad clear guidance on how to get started with what is usually thought of as a frustrating and arduous task. We have already ordered our own set, so you could say that this product has the Don’t Feed the Alligators seal of approval.

To Enter to Win this great set, simply subscribe to this blog, if you haven’t already, using either an RSS Reader or by email by filling out the form below. Then send me an email with the secret phrase that appears at the bottom of the post you receive via the subscription feed. Contest entries will be accepted through midnight EDT on August 15. One lucky winner will be drawn at random using a random number generator. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries. While no purchase is necessary, the folks over at Baby Signs sure would appreciate your business!


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